Early in March of 2018, Nantucket experienced one of the worst hate crimes in its history. The African Meeting House was vandalized horribly, leaving Nantucket scarred. Thankfully, after such a devastating event, locals were able to pull together as a community and stand together to praise diversity. This was almost a year ago. The culprit, or culprits, have yet to be officially identified. It is still unknown whether they are local to Nantucket or not. Many members of the community are wondering if someone will come forward.
Peter Panchy, a retired history teacher at NHS, shared his thoughts on the subject. He believes, “It is not entirely about punishment. It is more important that whoever did this realizes what a huge mistake this was, and can learn from it. Especially if it was a minor, their identities should be kept private.” He also said, “As a US history teacher, I really, incredibly value the role that African Americans have played in our history. Both nationally and here on Nantucket. They are us, it’s who we are. With the abuse that African Americans have suffered over the years, to see those words written on a building not only hurt people of color, but it should hurt all of us. This is a very serious thing that they did. We are a small island and if we can’t learn to treat each other with respect and safety it really makes me sad. If we don’t talk to each other and confront each other, nothing is going to change. I love our community and believe we can do it. We really need to confront each other when we make mistakes. It’s all about respect. The perpetrators have to know how wrong it was. We don’t need division, we need unity, and that creates health and safety”.
When asked how she felt about the fact that no one has been punished for this crime, sophomore Shanell Whyte responded, “I am angered, furious, and annoyed… We are people too, we deserve justice and whoever committed this terrible crime deserves to suffer the consequences. The African Meeting House is one of the only places on this island where African American culture is expressed. They might be able to cover those derogatory words with some paint, but the hurtful words will still linger within my mind until justice is served.”
At the selectmen’s meeting on January 23rd, 2019, Select Board chairman Jason Bridges shared some information he had collected from the Nantucket Police Department. This intel revealed to the island the amount of work the police have put into solving this terrible crime. Bridges stated, “The police department expended well over 100 hours of investigative and patrol time related to the incident…officers knocked on 53 doors…and talked to 42 persons that officers understood may have information about the incident.”
It has been nearly a year since the event, and it is saddening to know that a culprit has not been caught. However, the case remains open and the police have not given up the investigation. Officer Jerry Mack, of the Nantucket Police Department, shared some information about the case, along with his opinion. Officer Mack believes, “It was vandalism derived from hatred and ignorance, and certainly does not reflect the culture of our island community.” Officer Mack also shared, “Not a day goes by where someone in the Police Department doesn’t strategize the incident. We continuously dig deeper into all the information that has been brought forward through extensive investigation, and many interviews. Much like the David Matterson serial rapist case, which took eight years to solve, we have not given up, and we will never give up. We always remained vigilant in seeking justice. A common coping mechanism for people affected by a crime is to blame the police for their lack of quick resolution which we understand and accept as part of understanding human nature, but it doesn’t hinder our continuous efforts. It is very important for this community to understand that their Police Department has not given up, and will never give up on solving this crime.”
Fortunately, with our community being so small, there are many opportunities for cases to be continuously investigated whereas, in larger towns, it is much harder for crimes like these to be solved. Being able to stick together through times of questionable trust is extremely important for our small island and with this trust, the crime upon the African Meeting House could very well be solved.
By Amanda Mack